And off we go again, travelling by the wonderful Kiwi bus services with our entertaining bus driver come tour commentator, Dave..... and no we could see snow. Dave guaranteed that in a few short minutes we were able to see touch smell and play with the snow. Courtesy of a heavy dump of snow several days before.
Traversing Burkes' pass, the snow got thicker
Wait just a minute... that blinding white in all directions, the lack of any other significant landmarks except fencing and power lines, that fragile eggshell colour onthe horizon, am I back in Iceland...????
or... no.. it is still New Zealand... bit of a time warp back a few years for a minute or two, methinks.
On the southern side of Burke's pass, we dropped altitude and again encountered first trees, then grass again and sheep near Twizel... and Omarama... defintely Southern Hemisphere... yep... we were still in New Zealand..no question about that.Phew... thought I was going crazy for a sec....
McKenzie country... named after a crazy Scottish shepherd who was accused of not herding but sheep napping ( stealing ) a thousand sheep in the high country. Pleading innocent when finally tracked down, McKenzie was imprisoned but claimed no jail could hold him, and promptly escaped several times from custody, with his trusted Border collie dog, who only understand instructions in Gaelic. ( or so the legend says ) Eventually pardoned, he returned to his native country sometime later. see more abou this at the link below for Tekapo.
A photographer's paradise awaited me as we rounded the corner in the bus, bound for
Lake Tekapo... with a light "cake icing" coating of snow, the incredibly spectacular views of the snow clad peaks with the foreground comprising a glacial blue lake, this place could only be described as utterly magical.
Have you ever seen any lake this blue before? Wondered what causes this magnificient shade of cobalt blue in the waters of the lakes of the New Zealand Southern Alps... the answer lies in the action of the glacier grinding away the rocks to particles finer than talcum powder, Dave the bus driver explained to us, and the rest of the sleeping Japanese tourists on the bus. Because the particles are so fine, they remain suspended in the waters of the lakes.
From some angles, we could just see about 1/2 of Mount Cook/Aoraki in the distance. Its 400 feet ice cliffs are shrouded in cloud for 2/3 of the year. Sir Edmund Hilary, the famous New Zealand mountaineer, who was the first man to successfully climb Everest with his sherpa buddy, Tenzing sherpa, had in fact climbed Mt Cook twice. Reaching a height of 3,754 metres (12,316 ft), it is not as high as Everest, but is said Not to be an easy climb. 400 feet sheer ice cliffs are not a Sunday stroll in the park by any stretch of the imagination, are they?
It is also apparently, a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. Aoraki/Mount Cook consists of three summits lying slightly south and east of the main divide, the Low Peak, Middle Peak and High Peak, with the Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the west.
While the mountain was known to Māori centuries before, the first European known to see Aoraki/Mount Cook was Abel Tasman, on December 13, 1642 during his first Pacific voyage. The English name of Mount Cook was given to the mountain in 1851 by Captain John Lort Stokes to honour Captain James Cook who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770. Captain Cook did not sight the mountain during his exploration.
But more about Mount Cook later, as that was to be our lunch stop.
Tekapo had two more major attractions... the statue to the Working sheep dog, the Border Collie. Have you seen the movie Babe?
New Zealand's sheep industry was founded on the work of these dogs. The country was so vast rugged and weather and geography so hostile, that conventional means of securing one's sheep population ie. fencing was not suitable. Other answers had to be found. A trained and specialised breed of collie, was used to keep the herds on the property. He patroled the perimeters and "borders" of the farms in the high country, thus the name. Border Collie! As a tribute to their contribution, a statue stands overlooking Lake Tekapo... something Border collie owners might ponder about.
The Japanese tourists loved this... and we could not miss out on the obligatory photo. It is a wonder a small photo booth has not yet been set up here selling photoshoped pics of Mount Cook behind you (on a rare fine day) as we encountered at other major New Zealand tourist sites.
The final Attraction in this village was the Church of the Good Shepherd. Me, the religious zealot that I am, took a few snaps. But seriously, location, location, location....
Why did I not have my wedding here and avoid all the family feuds????? Awesome...and where one can only stand in awe at the work of God ( nature )
Words to describe this area are something I frequently ponder about....
Read more about the Church and the Mckenzie country legends here...
Maori were the first to venture into the Mackenzie Country, where they hunted moas, birds and eels before returning to the coast for food and trade.
The capture of Scotsman, James McKenzie in 1855, for being “in the company of a thousand stolen sheep” as he rustled them with his dog Friday, through a remote alpine pass into “a plain of immense extent” resulted in his deeds being immortalized and his name, albeit with a spelling change, applied to these highlands ever since.
The famous sheep dog statue on the lake’s edge is in memory of the hardy mustering dogs “without the help of which the grazing of this mountainous country would be impossible.”
Nearby is The Church of the Good Shepherd built in 1935 to the glory of God as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country. Congregations of the three main faiths worship regularly in the Church, which offers awe inspiring views of the lake and mountains through the altar window.
High energy & passive pass-timesThe waters of the lake are harnessed for electricity through the Tekapo Canal, flowing 27km to the Lake Pukaki powerhouse then onwards through the impressive Waitaki Valley hydro system.
Photos of Lake Pukaki will follow in the next post....